Welcome to Travis Manley's Writers Blog.

I currently make my living as a photographer, but have always had an interest in writing. I am currently working on a few projects (short fiction) and thought it would be fun to share my thoughts and experiences as I attempt to get my work published.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

On Writing: Book Review

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I'm one of the people that would read Stephen King's grocery list if he published it. A "constant reader," if you will. I haven't read a Stephen King book I did'nt like.

On Writing is an great read even if you have no interest in becoming a author. I've read it twice and wouldn't hesitate to read it again. King is such a pro, he writes in a way that feels conversational. Reading one of his books is like listening to an old friend tell you a real whopper of a story.

On Writing reads like an extended introduction in one of his novels. Less than half of the book is dedicated to the real nuts and bolts of writing, most of it is about his childhood and how he got into writing as well as the time when he got a few of his first books published up to his accident when he was hit by a car. If you ask me On Writing could serve as the framework for a movie about Stephen King.

I highly recommend this book. 5/5 Stars

*Photo from Amazon.com

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

English Grammar for Dummies

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I must be more of a "dummy" than I thought. I Found this great reference book English Grammar for Dummies. All the "For Dummies" books that I have read have really impressed me. When I was first getting into photography, most of what I learned was from Digital Photography All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies.

These books are written very simply. Just about anyone can pick them up and understand what they are reading without getting confused.

My one beef with this book is the examples the author gives. She goes though the trouble of breaking down complicated information about punctuation and sentence structure so it's easy to read and understand and then gives these terrible examples.

Here is one:

"Lochness snatched the atomic secret and quickly stashed it in his navel."

Come again...? Almost all of the examples are like this. They have characters with bizarre names doing bizarre things. Im sure this is intentional to be funny and entertaining, but it is distracting.

Other than the crazy examples I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to get a refresher on English grammar.

*Photo from Amazon.com

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Reading Comprehension

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I have always loved to read, but have discovered that I have to really work to ensure I comprehend and retain what I read. For some reason I find myself racing through passages and not effectively absorbing what I read. I can finish a book or an article and have totally forgotten what I read later on. There are some advantages to this; I can reread the same book over and over and still be surprised in parts, but I would rather spend that time reading new books.

I found some helpful sites dealing with how to improve your reading comprehension and retaining what you read, and thought I would pass along what I found.

How to Improve Reading Comprehension

How to Read Textbooks

10 Tips to Retain More of What You Read Online

Breaking News: The Gathering Storm

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I just read that the next installment in the Wheel of Time series The Gathering Storm will be released earlier than expected.

Here is the announcement from brandonsanderson.com:

"This afternoon I got word from Tor that the release date of THE GATHERING STORM has officially been moved up one week. The new on-sale date in the U.S. and Canada will be October 27, 2009, so mark your calendars. We don't yet know if other markets will be following suit; as more information comes in I'll keep you posted.

Jason Denzel at Dragonmount is one of the lucky few who has had the opportunity to read the finished book, and he posted his review of THE GATHERING STORM at the end of July. The review does include some very minor spoilers that he's marked off so you can skip them if you want the book to be completely fresh when you open it up in October. Also over at Dragonmount today Jason posted my comments on the situation with the outriggers and prequels. Short version: A MEMORY OF LIGHT is what Harriet and I are focused on right now.

I got home late last night from Worldcon, where Howard Tayler was beaten to the Best Graphic Story Hugo Award by the much-deserving Phil and Kaja Foglio with Girl Genius. Congratulations!

In this week's Writing Excuses episode Howard, Dan, and I talk about trimming—tightening your prose and reducing word count without changing your story. And while at Worldcon we recorded three episodes with the puppeteer and Campbell-winning writer Mary Robinette Kowal, so that's something to look forward to in upcoming podcasts.

And since it's Tuesday, a new MISTBORN 3 annotation has gone up and I have three links to give you: Part One Wrap-Up, Chapter Fourteen, and Chapter Fifteen. The beginning of Part Two is when Spook shows up, so these are chapters I particularly like. It's more setup, but with a more epic scope like HERO OF AGES has, more setup is necessary."

Ghost Story

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I just started reading Ghost Story by Peter Straub. Good so far, but im not really sure where it's going.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Progress Report

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I started on a third draft of a short story I'm working on today. I took a little break between drafts to brush up on some grammar and punctuation basics. The story is about a family that goes camping in a remote area of the Pacific Northwest and run into some trouble with another camper.

In this draft I'm hoping to get the word count down from 6,500 to around 5,000 or less. I also need to come up with a title. I'm currently using "Bad Camper" as a place holder, but I need something better. Other than that I'm just going to try and apply some of what I learned from reading "The Elements of Style" and really strip down everything that isn't important to the story and polish everything that is.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Book Review: Ender's Game

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This being a "writers" blog, I thought it would be appropriate to include book reviews. My first review is on Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game. The 20th anniversary audiobook edition. If your looking to pick up a copy; here it is on Amazon.com http://xrl.in/2xwm. You can also read a review from the author there.

Quick Summary: Set in the future, Ender is a six year old boy sent away to battle school where he must learn to save mankind from an alien species known as "The Buggers."

Review (no spoilers): I had a friend in high school (maybe it was middle school) who tried to get me to read this book. “It's about aliens and video games,” he said. I'm not sure why I wasn't immediately sold; guess I was too busy reading about dragons and wizards. He ended up telling me about how the book ended, and I thought it sounded interesting, but never got around to reading it.

I finally got around to reading Ender's Game; listening to it to be more exact. Ender's Game is a great read. I like how it's a story about kids acting and speaking like adults even though they are very leery of them. It would be easy to forget how young most of the kids are until one of them calls the other a "fart eater."

Really, the only thing I didn't care for in the book the number of battles in battle school. They were entertaining at first, but got old fast. I didn't feel like they moved the story along. I felt like the author could have said everything he needed so say about these battles in two or three of them. It would be a bit like JK Rowling taking chapter after chapter to explain every aspect of every Quidditch match in the Harry Potter books. Sure, its fun to read a little here and there, but it's not the real meat and potatoes of the story.

What was most interesting to me was the interaction between Ender and his classmates; despite having the odds against him he still managed to make friends. Equally interesting was Ender's struggle to be a peaceful person despite every aspect of his surroundings trying to make him a killer.

I highly recommend this book.

Please feel free to leave comments about this review

*Photo from Amazon.com

First Post

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I just had a (great) idea to start a writers blog where I can post updates on my attempts to become a published writer. I have been writing stories for as long as I can remember and I have finally gotten to a point where I want to take it to the next level and try to get something published. My goal is to write several new stories all short fiction (3,000-5,000 words) and start submitting them to magazines.

I have written a rough draft of my first story and have set it aside to spend a little time brushing up on the basics of writing and grammar. I feel so rusty on this stuff. I have been reading through a text book of my wife's "Essentials of College English" and it feels more like reading a foreign language. Luckily when rereading Stephen King's "On writing" he recommended "The Elements of Style" by Strunk and White and I have been learning a lot from it.

Hopefully someone will stumble across this blog and get a laugh at my expense at my trial and errors, and maybe someone will find this and learn something. I will be happy either way.

Please feel free to leave comments, questions, or words of wisdom.